I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized History is to Blame

History is to Blame

Maurice Earls
Books drawn on in this essay include: The Plot Against Samuel Pepys, by James and Ben Long, Faber and Faber, 322 pp, £17.99, ISBN: 978-0571227136 The Diaries of Samuel Pepys – a Selection, Robert Latham (ed), Penguin, 1,152 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-0141439938 The Glorious Revolution: 1688 – Britain’s Fight for Liberty, by Edward Vallance, Abacus, 384 pp, £9.99, ISBN: 978-0349117331 Samuel Pepys was, near enough, London’s Leopold Bloom – intelligent, curious, diligent and decent, with an abiding interest in music, food, women and the life of the city and people around him. Both individuals, the historical and the fictional, were bourgeois gentlemen who provide what are among the most honest records of human, and in particular male, thinking available. They told the truth about themselves, a simple enough matter, but also a rare phenomenon and one which separates them from the bulk of memoir writers who are always, to some degree, engaged in personal propaganda. There are differences of course; Joyce shone his light on the involuntary sequences of Bloom’s thinking, whereas Pepys simply wrote down what he was aware of thinking about and what was happening in the world around him. The result in both cases was a compelling and brilliant literary work. Samuel Pepys, most unusually for his time, believed that his everyday doings would interest posterity, and this inspired him in January 1660 to embark upon what is one of the most fascinating diaries of all time. He went to great pains to ensure his journal would survive, thinking, correctly as it turned out, that it would be read at some time in the future. His belief that his writings would not be read during his lifetime no doubt emboldened him and in part explains the remarkable frankness with which he presents himself: whether arguing with his wife, singing in his garden or making advances (successful) towards Diana, the daughter of his neighbour Mrs Crisp. He was, however, fully aware of the danger inherent in his frankness and he ensured that he would not be compromised if some member of his household – in particular his wife – happened upon the journal. The entries were written, almost entirely, in an obscure form of shorthand understood by only a tiny percentage of the population. In his will Pepys bequeathed his library to Magdalene College Cambridge, and among his three thousand books he placed the six leatherbound volumes of…

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